Arizona State University: ASU receives $ 12.5 million NSF award to establish transdisciplinary institute

The National Science Foundation announced the award of $ 12.5 million to Arizona State University for the development of a new Institute of Biological Integration.

The award will launch an academic program, under the guidance of Michael lynch, principal researcher and director of Biodesign Center for Evolutionary Mechanisms.

Evolutionary cell biology aims to unite the fields of cell biology and the theory of evolution in a rigorous new discipline, based on three major frameworks of theoretical and quantitative biology: biochemistry, biophysics and genetics of populations.

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The new center will focus on the emerging and exciting field of evolutionary cell biology, a discipline Lynch has helped develop. He will examine the ways in which cellular evolution through life forms is guided by internal cellular constraints, based on the laws of biophysics, bioenergetics and population genetics. The intensely interdisciplinary company will draw on tools from mathematics, physics, chemistry, biophysics, structural biology, cell biology and evolution.

Lynch is joined by the co-PIs Jeremy wideman, Wayne Frasch, Kerry Geiler-Samerotte and Ke Hu, who are all researchers at the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution.

The Institutes represent an ambitious program designed by NSF to encourage collaborative teams to study questions spanning multiple disciplines within and beyond biology.

According to the NSF: “Each institute must identify a research theme, centered around a broad and compelling biological question ready for breakthroughs through collaboration between biological sub-disciplines.

More than a century and a half has passed since Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species”. Yet the underlying mechanisms responsible for the astonishing variety of life on Earth are only partially understood. This is especially true of evolutionary processes at the cellular level.

Cells are fundamental units of life. Evolutionary cell biology studies cell life to help inform evolutionary processes, while using the tools and perspectives of evolutionary biology to explore how cells function and why they take the various forms they take.

Despite significant advances in fields ranging from molecular and genomic evolution to evolutionary developmental biology and ecology, studies of cellular evolution are sorely lacking. “We just jumped over the cell and yet this is where all of biology begins – at the cellular level,” Lynch said.

Evolutionary cell biology aims to unite the fields of cell biology and the theory of evolution in a rigorous new discipline, based on three major frameworks of theoretical and quantitative biology: biochemistry, biophysics and genetics of populations.

As Lynch notes, crucial concepts in biochemistry and biophysics have been deeply under-explored in the world of evolutionary biology, while cell biologists have, for the most part, avoided considering the evolutionary pathways by which various cellular characteristics can. to have emerged.

“We are delighted that ASU is welcoming a deeply creative and interdisciplinary effort to understand the evolutionary foundations of cellular structure, function and diversity,” said Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute. “The research is poised not only to transform our understanding of cells and the theory of evolution, but also to provide crucial information to better respond to a range of societal issues, from antibiotic resistance to herbicides and pesticides for the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. “

The master plan for the new center includes three main research objectives. The first major project will involve the construction of an extensive atlas of cell biology, using a range of new investigative techniques. One problem facing the field is the fact that the majority of cell biology research to date has focused on a small subset of cell diversity, particularly yeast cells and a few bacteria like E. coli.

“The idea here is to explore the cells of the entire tree of life,” Lynch said. “We want to understand what’s inside cells, how proteins are assigned to different subcellular locations, how much cells invest in different organelles, and so on.

After completing a year or more of distance and hybrid learning due to COVID-19, a significant portion of traditional school districts are returning to familiar in-person models this school year. Even so, the benefits of e-learning remain clear, especially with around 40 students.

A forward-thinking school network in Cleveland offers students and their families a one-of-a-kind solution to keeping students up to date with school content and curriculum they are at risk of missing due to a COVID-quarantine. 19.

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A new offering called Learning Under Quarantine from ASU Prep Digital, considered for Revolutionary public schools in collaboration with The 305 Education Group, is now in place. To avoid learning losses related to COVID-19, ASU Prep Digital is providing online instructors to teach students in the Cleveland area who miss in-person learning due to a 10-day quarantine.

This innovative approach simultaneously increases teaching and learning time, while providing a practical solution for schools that simply do not have the human or financial resources to operate dual models in person and online.

During the 2020-2021 school year, Breakthrough Public Schools – one of Ohio’s most successful nonprofit public charter school networks – only operated remotely. However, for the 2021-2022 academic year, network leaders knew changes were needed.

“Our families overwhelmingly wanted their children to return to school buildings this year, and as educators we believe in-person education is of critical importance at this time to address unfinished learning and social development. and emotional of our students, ”said Tyler Thornton, COO of Breakthrough Public Schools, which serves students from Kindergarten to Grade 8. “At the same time, we recognize that COVID quarantine is a growing reality, and we have a responsibility to keep students engaged and advancing in their education, even when they cannot attend school in person. . “

After selecting potential partners to meet this need, Breakthrough Public Schools selected ASU Prep Digital. The PreK-12 Online School, developed by Arizona State University, combines easy-to-use technology with a strong curriculum, qualified educators, specific and concurrent college courses, and customizable solutions. Each of these components blend together to create unique formulas (or learning plans / models) that are customized to meet the needs of schools and students, helping them succeed and advance academically.

“We have implemented the Quarantine Learning Model for State-of-the-Art Public Schools to help their cadre reopen, so quarantined students can continue to learn, while easing the burden on teachers and parents,” said declared Julie young, Managing Director of ASU Preparatory Academy and ASU Prep Digital.

“Many schools are looking for an approach that allows them to teach effectively in this still unpredictable COVID environment,” Young said. “At ASU Prep Digital, we have the benefit of a proven online program that gives schools and students the opportunity to excel in a non-traditional way. Through an extensive collaborative process, we have created this new Quarantine Learning Model to Meet the Needs of Breakthrough Students We look forward to customizing this offering to meet the needs of more schools that may use this same type of quality teaching aid. ”

This press release was produced by Arizona State University. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.

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